Edit Button | Buttercup of Doom ep 47


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The edit button… that magical thing many claim I am missing. But am I? And is that a bad thing? Are you missing it? Should we practice using it more often? Editing your words between your brain and your mouth… Also, in the 101Kiddie Pool: editing and the completion monster. A nice short episode for that traffic jam. Enjoy!

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This Week’s Rating: R (language) buttercup ratings system info here

Writer’s Groups, Pre-Readers and Mommy

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.
It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
~ Winston Churchill

Blame Mandy DeGeit for this. No really, feel free to go over to her blog and blame her. Loudly. And if you’re a new writer, thank her while you’re there. Tossing her under the bus for the greater good is hard to do, but reality gives this a better punch—and she can take it.

While the hard lessons of the publishing world were crashing down around her, exploding her blog and facebook and twitter accounts with the likes of Neil Gaiman and Ramsey Campbell, she was sitting on my couch learning. She was learning those little things that never seem to be written down in any book on writing.

One of her lessons, and today’s tidbit, was editing. Because of the edits done to her, because she then wanted to put it up for sale and I thought maybe we should look at it first, and because there were too many errors when I did look (at something she had submitted), we had a little chit-chat about what I tend to refer to as “mommy likes it.” Because what she had submitted did need editing. It didn’t need publisher level editing, it needed author level. It was submitted and accepted as such, but it shouldn’t have been submitted in that state.

“Mommy likes it” refers to the rule guideline no one will tell you. GET PRE-READERS. And your mother doesn’t count, unless she’s an English professor or writer herself. She’s your mother. She’s supposed to like you. Supposed to support you. Supposed to pat your head and tell you everything you do is golden. Guess what? It’s not. And if you don’t believe me, ask MY mother—the meanest critic on the planet (I’ve actually been trying to convince her to join goodreads, but I think she’d just make every author cry rather than just me). So who do you get? The reason this is a guideline rather than a rule is because of the fine details—it’s up to you to decide the final tally and logic to each of them, and it’s up to you and your needs how and who you pick. I’ll use my own past and current situation as an example.

Once upon a time I was a pre-reader for several well-known authors. I got the position after harshly reviewing all of them for several years (in retrospect, I wonder if it was to keep my opinions to pre-press). I was their nazi* pre-reader. I fine-toothed their manuscripts. I pointed out storyline issues, consistency problems, POV, tense,  grammar, punctuation, spelling, anything I could find. I beat up Brian Keene for years regarding his abuse of the semi-colon and I had the balls to tell very tall and very scary duo Wrath James White and James Moore, as well as the quiet but deadly JF Gonzalez, when something sucked. I was mean, but it was all in the name of making their words the best they could be, and done with a smile.  And THAT is the key to a good pre-reader.

Where I was once the nazi for others, I now have my own in Dave Thomas (dt not meteornotes, to clarify, because there are too many Dave’s in my life!) But I have other pre-readers, and this is where the guideline of what you need and how many you need comes into play.

1. The above mentioned “nazi.”

2. “The reader” who tells me straight fan opinion and let’s me know when I write over his head—e.g. “I didn’t know this word” means change it so I don’t lose or offend any readers.

3. “The fan” who has read everything I’ve ever written, right down to grocery lists, and can give me not only an opinion on where the current story rates, but will understand the little jumps around my universe with characters and nods that I tend to do and find things if I screw up.

4. “The writer” another writer will see things no reader ever will. And more importantly, editing me will help them edit themselves. I learned that while I was doing it, and I gladly pass it forward. It’s invaluable… unfortunately, this will always be the one that gets fired and sent off into the world to concentrate on their own work.

Those are mine. You may want more, less, or for different reasons, but I find this combination works really well. And I would be lost without them, which is why they are always in the acknowledgements. I may create the world and write the words, but they tell me when it’s bad, ugly, stupid or otherwise requires attention.

And they make sure what I submit is ready to be submitted.

Which is the point of this blog. When we write we become what we’re writing. There are non-writing spouses that will tell you horror stories of living with the characters rather than the writer. I can’t say they’d be wrong. We become so immersed in what we’re doing, we can get too close to it. Close enough to not see our own mistakes. Close enough not to be able to judge it right out the gate as ready or not for the world. Get pre-readers.

At one point during the lesson she asked about writers’ groups as a form of pre-readers. While some people join them, enjoy them, and find what they need from them, I have never had that kind of success with them. I won’t exactly go into any kind of argument against you joining them, but I would implore you to maybe use both a group and a set of pre-readers and look at the difference in the feedback. Then decide what you think of them and whether or not they are helpful to you.

Now then, call your mother and tell her you love her but she’s fired. Then look at those around you and pick the ones you feel have the ability to be completely honest with you even if it hurts (and brace yourself for emails that start “I love you but…” when they send back their edits). Pick your pre-readers, send them something, and get back to writing.

Me? It’s Memorial Day, it’s 85 degrees, and the pool in the yard is flirting with me from across the driveway in ways that would totally get me to go home with it if it were a boy in a bar. You… go write. Me… going to muse in the water so I can write later.

*nazi — please take no offense at this, none is meant. I use that word all the time as a generalization for strict dictatorship. My own boss calls me the Office Nazi =)


summer-vacation-photo-contest_slideshow_imageFriday we hit the road for Wisconsin… again. This time, we’re coming back in a quieter vehicle. This time, we’re leaving the kids behind for summer. It will suck, so I’ll make the best of it and force the time to go quickly.

Yes, I said that.

And my younger self, the 12-year-old that lives just under the surface, is crying a little bit. Summer vacation used to mean the beach and sun, BBQs and picnics, relaxing and giggling and making memories. It meant wishing it would drag on forever and school would never start again.

But I have work to do.

I have a short story due next week that I still need to fix. I have an article due in July that I need to pull from an old blog and make pretty. I have another story due in August that I haven’t even started beyond musing and the first paragraph. I have a novel that needs to be finished before the kids get back in August. And when/if there’s downtime or I need a break, there’s a Big Mac vampire novel to be written. It’s crunch time. I’ll be going back to twice a week blogs and spending a ton of energy beating the muse until she’s bruised and bloody and begging for me to go to the beach, just so I’ll leave her alone for a day.

But right now I’m taking a smoke break and daydreaming of summer vacations past—because I’m a memory lane whore.

I remember fishing and swimming, snorkeling and tubing, and sitting in the canoe just floating with a book at the cabin. Fireworks on the water—both Lake Superior and at the cabin. Moonlight on the big lake, with a boy or a beer, or both. Laying around doing absolutely nothing other than communing with Ra. Bomb pops and ice cream cones. Reading books in the big loft doorway of the garage. Movies and sleepovers. Hanging out with my boyfriend, or the girls, or the gang, as the day dictated. Babysitting and climbing trees. Upgrading from the 10-speed to mom’s car. Train tracks in the rain. Jumping from the lighthouse. Four-wheeling in the pit and flashlight tag in the graveyard. Fires on the beach and parties at the point. Long quiet walks in the woods and picking rocks along the shoreline at sunset.

And writing in my notebooks.

Because even back in high school, when I saw summer vacation as a lazy-fest of do-nothing-and-like-it, I was writing. Poems, short stories, strange passages that would lay dormant until remembered, and occasionally used, years later. Even then I had words to spew, blood to spill. I never traveled without my smokes, my shades, and a pencil in my back pocket.

Some things never change…

Medium Rare

happymealRemember when Happy Meal’s® came in a box? Yeah, this blog has nothing to do with that, or Happy Meals, or even McDonald’s. Just the Big Mac.

Or rather, what the Big Mac signifies.

The Big Mac is the best (while your mileage may vary™  just play along) of the junk food available. I think we can agree that it’s basically the polar opposite of a Filet Mignon. And thus we enter metaphorland!

You see, a certain Hippie I know what going off on a rant when I got home yesterday, regarding the industry and it’s love of everything written horribly. A friend of ours was told to “dummy down” a manuscript because, while it was great, it wouldn’t sell like this. Between that and an article he read, he went on and on about bad paranormal romance doing better than well written fiction, fifth grade reading level writing, talentless schmucks getting book deals, etc. He spoke of selling out to the buyers and tossing art to the side.

I was crushed.

I asked, “Do you write for the story or the money, and don’t lie because I know the answer.” He didn’t lie. He said story, “But what good is the story if it’s never sold to be read?”

Oh yes, this spun us off into a whole rant/debate thing. A part of me giggled. Ahhh the good old days—when we were just friends arguing over industry and other nonsense at cons and such. It was playful banter. It was venting frustrations. It was… it was anything but a serious argument.

Then it turned serious.

Not in that we were actually arguing. Oddly, we don’t do that, or at least haven’t yet. This turned serious in that it wasn’t playful. The glint in his eye became an angry monkey that threatened to throttle the muse and force it to kick out crap just to get published.

Yeah, you read that right. “Just to get published.” Which of course, turned into me having a fit about not giving your stuff away, not self-publishing, and asking how purposely writing crap wasn’t just as bad as those two evils.

If you follow my twitter, you may have seen me post what he said next,. “It’s the difference between Big Macs and Filet Mignon… but the ones writing Big Macs can afford the filet, on an island somewhere.” I tried to come back with something snappy—how you want to be remembered for art and craft and all that silliness. (See, now you know I was hot, because I actually used the word “craft”). His response, also on twitter, was low… because it was true, “We’ve been to Poe’s house… have you seen Dan Brown’s?”

Of course, as our house is not just a family but a tribe, and several of the natives were watching the festivities, I turned to them with hope. One is in 8th grade, the other in 11th. “What was the last book you read?” First they answered with books they had to read for school. “No, no… the last book you read for fun.” I was met with blank stares. Then they finally piped up with titles and the following clarifiers which broke my soul. “In 5th grade.” “In 8th grade.”

Does anyone read anymore?!! My mother does. I’m betting most people reading this blog do. But what happened to the reading public? Not only have they been drastically reduced to the minority over the years, but they’re accepting crappy Big Macs instead of requesting, nay demanding, Filet mignon.

I will not sell out. I will not sell out. I will not sell out. I will not give my stuff away, because my mentors told me not to. I will not self-publish, because my mentors told me not to. And I will not write Big Macs.

I like my Filet mignon. Medium rare please.

So tell me, oh loyal audience of mine. What were the last 3 books you read? Genre only? Nonfiction? Do you read the paper? What do you read and how do you like it served—with a side of fries, or garlic mashed potatoes?

Sure, a beach book has it’s place and time, but all the time? Replacing the fireplace cuddle books? No, I just can’t accept that! And this debate is far from over… throughout the rest of the night it came up, at random, with venom, and is sure to be fueled by a dueling blog and more banter today. So help me, kind audience. Help me help the Hippie remember. Listen to the mentors. Do as they say, not as they do. Don’t give your stuff away. Don’t self-publish. And for the love of all things holy, don’t write garbage on purpose! Write good fiction… and if the editor is willing to pay you money to “dummy it down,” deal with it then.

Down with Big Mac writing! Long live beautiful meat™!

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